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The sacred barque of Het-Hert from the Temple of Dendera

Het-Hert was regarded as the wife of Heru (Horus) and Her Temple at Dendera celebrated the joint "Festival of the Beautiful Reunion," heb en sekhen nfr ("heb en sekhen nefer") of Het-Hert and Heru with the Temple of Heru at Edfu. Both temples share information about this festival in their wall inscriptions. Once a year during the third month of Shomu, the season of Harvest, Het-Hert would travel in Her sacred barque more than 100 miles to the south to be reunited with Heru. The journey lasted four days, and five smaller boats with unfurled sails would tow upstream the great Barque of Het-Hert, carrying the sacred processionary boat with its holy icon of the Golden One.

The name of Her-Hert's golden barque was nb mrwt, meaning "Mistress of Love." The entire clergy of the Temple of Dendera was present at the ceremonies in Dendera celebrating its departure.  A scribe of the sacred texts and his shemsu (followers) accompanied the barque and stayed with it during the four days of its journey. As it traveled southward, the procession drew pilgrims from between and beyond both towns, and to which local deputies from the larger cities were sent. The first stop on the journey was at the temple of Asheru at Karnak, where Het-Hert would visit the goddess Mut.  On the second day the sanctuary of the goddess Anukis at Per-Mer was visited, and on the third day Het-Hert reached the ancient city of Nehen (Hierakonpolis).  At this stop She was joined by the local Heru who accompanied Her on the rest of the journey to Djeba (Edfu).  While Het-Hert's procession was nearing Edfu, Heru of Edfu (joined by Khonsu) set out in His own processionary barque to meet His Consort. This meeting occurred at Wetjeset-Hor (wTst-Hr) ("the place where Heru is extolled"), located north of Edfu.

In the cosmological texts of Edfu, Wetjeset-Hor is the original site of the primeval mound of creation, where a reed was planted and upon which Netjer settled to perform the act of creation. The temple developed around this sacred spot. It is appropriate that the meeting of Het-Hert and Heru occurs at this holy place, because the fruit of their conjugal union symbolizes new life, fertility and regeneration. The arrival of Het-Hert and Heru at Wetjeset-Hor was accompanied by offerings of the first fruits of the harvest and rituals to determine the most auspicious time of departure for the temple proper.

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The voyage south of the barques of Het-Hert and Heru and the landing near the holy precinct of Behedet

The barques of both Het-Hert and Heru then sailed to Iat-Geb ("the hill of Geb") where many great offerings were made.  Finally, as evening began to fall on this day of the New Moon, the barques arrived at the Temple of Edfu, to the enthusiastic cheering of awaiting crowds gathered for the festival.  At this point both sacred icons were placed together in the sanctuary of the temple and fourteen days of rituals and celebrations began.  The icons of Het-Hert and Heru were taken in procession the next morning to the open kiosk on the roof of the temple, and amidst the bright rays of the sun, They "arrived in the Presence of Ra."

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The King with the Barque of Het-Hert at Edfu

  In Edfu, there were processions to the necropolis and to neighboring sanctuaries, and numerous food offerings of the harvest were presented. There were many kinds of bread, grilled meat and fowl, and beer in abundance, along with milk, dates, sweet cakes, and other delicacies. During the nights, Hethert stayed in the sanctuary of the Temple of Edfu with Heru. To please Het-Hert's ka, a chorus sang beautiful songs and young women danced.  The texts say that "the inhabitants of Behedet rejoiced and made a joyful noise which reached the heavens."  The texts mention that myrrh could be smelled a mile away and the city was "bestrewn with faience, glittering with natron and garlanded with flowers and fresh herbs. Its youths are drunk, its citizens are glad, its young maidens are beautiful to behold; rejoicing is all around it and festivity is in all its quarters.  There is no sleep to be had in it until dawn."[1] Throughout this joyous celebration the focus was on the regeneration of life, symbolized by Het-Hert's role as Netjert of Life in Her marriage to Heru. After the fourteen days of festivities were over, the barque of Het-Hert with Her icon sailed downstream with the current and the boats' sails furled, returning home to Her temple in Dendera.



[1] text from Edfu IV, 3, 5-8, in Barbara Watterson's The House of Horus at Edfu, p. 106.

Alliot, Maurice, Le Culte d'Horus à Edfou au Temps des Ptolémées, Le Caire, Imprimerie de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, 1949.
Bleeker, Dr. C.J., Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion, Leiden, E.J. Brill, c. 1973.
Cauville, Sylvie, Edfou, Bibliothèque Générale, Tome VI, 1984.  Image of the King and the Barque of Het-Hert from pl. 9, in the hypostyle hall of Edfu.
Cauville, Sylvie, "La Chapelle de la Barque à Dendera," BIFAO 93 (1993), pp. 79-172.  Image of Barque of Het-Hert, pl. 13, from the base of interior southern wall.
Kurth, Dieter, Treffpunkt der Götter: Inschriften aus dem Tempel des Horus von Edfu, Düsseldorf/Zürich, Artemis & Winkler Verlag, c. 1998. Image of procession from plate 57, taken from Chassinat's Edfou X.
Watterson, Barbara, The House of Horus at Edfu: Ritual in an Ancient Egyptian Temple, Tempus Publishing Ltd., c. 1998.
Wilkinson, Richard H., The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, New York, Thames and Hudson, c. 2000.
Wilson, Penelope, A Ptolemaic Lexikon, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 78, Peeters, c. 1997.

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